Japan's 310-mph 'floating' trains

The Week's Editorial Staff
The Week
An earlier version of the maglev train performed a test run in Yamanashi, which clocked in at 281 mph on September 20, 2000.

With the help of electromagnetic pull, Japan's new trains will get passengers to their destinations faster, without even touching the ground

If you feel the need for speed, Japan is the place to be. The region's bullet trains are among the fastest commuter rails in the world, but now the nation has one-upped itself in both speed and design. Central Japan Railway Co. has unveiled a prototype for a new "floating train" that uses magnetic levitation, allowing the trains to reach speeds of 310 mph — without ever touching the ground. A look at how the technology works:

How do the trains levitate? 
The floating trains have no wheels, which reduces friction and helps them travel much faster. The maglev trains are instead propelled along a track by electromagnetic pull. The ride is quieter, and passengers get to their destinations faster. Makers claim the floating trains are much safer than traditional trains. For example, in the event of a power outage, the trains would slow down and "settle" on auxiliary wheels before braking to a stop. The manufacturers also say that maglev technology would cause much less pollution than the planes that currently connect the Shinagawa Station in Tokyo with Nagoya, Japan's third largest incorporated city  — the route where the floating trains would first run.

And how much shorter would that commute be? 
Although Tokyo and Nagoya are already connected via bullet trains, when the new trains are implemented, the 90-minute ride would be cut to just 40 minutes. Each train will have up to 16 carriages, and will seat roughly 1,000 passengers. 

And these trains are the first of their kind? 
Not exactly. A maglev train currently operates in Shanghai, but its top speed is just 268 mph, whereas these new trains are expected to hit speeds of 300 mph and higher. But the Japanese will have to wait a while for shorter commutes. The floating trains aren't scheduled for use until 2027, and could cost $64 billion.

Sources: The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, VentureBeat

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